Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Access: From the north you can get on the Cottonwood Wash Road from the town of Cannonville. Follow the signs to Kodachrome Basin State Park (the road is paved to the park). Instead of turning off to the park, continue down the dirt road.
From the south, access the road from Highway 89 approximately 47.5 miles east of Kanab and about 10 miles west of Big Water. The turnoff is well marked.
Vehicle: This road can be traveled by just about any passenger car when it is dry. The road is well graded and kept in pretty good shape. However, if the road is wet it becomes impassable, even for 4X4s.
Case in point: We traveled past Grosvenor Arch and took the road to Four Mile Bench. The road was dry and in our big Ford 350 4X4 diesel pickup we made good time. We were out on the bench for about three hours, photographing a stand of 1400-year-old juniper and pinion trees. The sun was out and we had a great time.
As we headed back down the road we noticed it was raining near the arch. It hadn't rained a drop where we were.) It rained hard for just a few minutes. As we started to climb the dugway to get back to the Cottonwood Wash Road we started to slip and slide. We stopped, locked the hubs and threw the transmission into four low. Still, we were sliding all over the place. The mud was so gooey it filled in the tire lugs and we couldn't get any traction. Now we were creeping along at only one or two miles an hour and were still in danger of sliding off the road and down a very steep embankment. We stopped on a relatively flat spot, broke out the chains and chained up all four tires. Even with the chains the big 4X4 barely made it over the dugway and down the far side. We spent a couple of hours doing some white knuckle driving. If we hadn't had the chains we would have had to spend the night on Four Mile Bench.
Watch the weather and if this road even looks like it might get wet, don't go.
Things to do: The drive down the Cottonwood Wash Road is extremely scenic. Bring your camera and extra film and spend some time taking pictures of the strange forms and colors.
For over 20 miles the road runs down the length of the Cockscomb (the East Kaibab Monocline). The beds of rock making up the Cockscomb have been intensely folded and are now tilted as steeply as 45 or 50 degrees. Differential erosion of these tilted beds has produced the cockscomb-like features.
Interesting Side Trips: Kodachrome Basin State Park: The park has picnic and camping areas, restrooms, tables and potable water. This is a fee area. The main attraction is a series of brilliantly colored sandstone pillars and columns.
Round Valley Draw: Fantastic but challenging slot canyon hike down a tributary to Hackberry Canyon. Very narrow, rugged canyon with lots of dry falls, rock jams and pools of water. This hike should only be attempted when there is no chance of rain and by those experienced in slot canyon hiking.
Grosvenor Arch: A double arch carved out of the same multi-colored sandstones found at Kodachrome Basin. Limited camping areas, pit toilets and one covered picnic table.
Rush Beds: The Rush Bed Road was completely washed out when I tried to explore this area, so I don't know what is out there or even what the Rush Beds are.
Paria Movie Set: Access from Highway 89, not quite 14 miles west of the Cottonwood Wash Road and Highway 89 junction. Built in the 1960s for several Western movies. Getting pretty rundown but fun to see.
Paria Ghost Town: Continue past the movie set toward the Paria River. If you don't have a high clearance vehicle, park as close to the river as you dare and then hike or wade across the river (generally the river is dry or running only a little water but it can flood violently after a rain) to see the rock cabins and old town site.
Be sure to stop and check out the old cemetery on your way to or from the old town.